Board sets Nov. 2 as target date for reopening

Kris Long, Sports Editor

In light of the recent drop in COVID-19 case numbers, The USD 383 Board of Education hopes to reopen the district four days a week starting Nov. 2, should conditions allow. 

“At some point, we will be back,” head principal Micheal Dorst said. “But the question is, when is the right time? What information is helping frame that decision?”

Manhattan’s positivity rate has dropped to 8% in the last week and attendance rates among staff and students remain high, leading the board to start discussions to reopen schools for onsite students to a greater extent. With winter coming and Hybrid intended to be temporary, the district feels that now is the appropriate time to try and bring things back to a level of normalcy. 

“Much of the concern leading to the desire to go back more days… is the mental health, stress and anxiety that shows the need for in person schooling,” Dorst said. “On the opposite side of this spectrum of any decision is the concern, stress and anxiety of the health of our people, the almost 2000 people, that make up Manhattan High.”

The district intends to go back four days a week with block schedules and all onsite students present. Wednesday remote to allow for a deep cleaning. They believe this extra cleaning is a necessary precaution to ease the district back into full-time school.

“[The Board] recognizes the value of still having that day off, to clean to do a deep cleaning,” Dorst said. “Allowing one more step before going fully back in person.”

With the change, the district anticipates a number of students wanting to switch from online to onsite and vice versa. According to the parent survey the figure sits at about 10%, but is approximately equal with students who want to go remote from hybrid and vice versa meaning schedules should not be skewed significantly. If a significant number of students move from one side to another, the possibility of schedule changes due to some teachers being moved online or onsite is apparent. However, students shouldn’t expect any drastic changes. Year long and common semester classes should all be continued as planned. 

“There may be some shifting, I suspect that our students and teachers will feel that some changes have been made,” Dorst said. “As for a complete overhaul, I do not see that happening… I think somebody will know somebody who teaches differently, or somebody is going to know somebody whose student’s schedule was changed, [but] complete, everybody changed, no.”

With all onsite students in school together, social distancing will simply not happen to the same extent it does currently in classrooms, hallways or at lunch. However, other precautions will still be in place and people will distance to the best of their ability. Block scheduling will allow for three lunch periods, which means a level of social distancing will still be achievable when students aren’t masked. 

“In order, still the most important thing is, is to remain masked and keep your hands out of your face and eyes then social distancing,” Dorst said. “When you have more people, the importance of that is increased… I would say the students have responded wonderfully for the first quarter. The students have self monitored great. The students have responded when we’ve asked for students to mask if they haven’t been… And because of that, I think our rate of how many students have been in our building is a sign of that and that we have not been a site of a super spread event.”

The date is still only tentative, and the numbers will need to continue their current trend for it to go forward. The board intends to announce it’s plan for certain during the Oct 21 BoE meeting.